Point of View

Focus on digital led growth imperatives to survive and thrive

February 19, 2021

In 2020, the decades-old corporate mindset of resisting change flipped overnight to one of advocating change just to ensure survival. This worldwide seismic shift has forced enterprises to pursue and realize their digital transformation possibilities. Supported by Infosys, HFS led a webinar that anchored discussion around the Nowhere to Hide study, which brought in Michael Ruttledge, CIO and Head of Technology Services at Citizens, and Mohit Joshi, President and Head of BFSI, Healthcare and Lifesciences at Infosys, dig into the hard work ahead for enterprises to not just recover, but to thrive and fulfill the best version of their digital selves. In the Nowhere to Hide study, Infosys and HFS Research partnered to survey 400 Global 2000 executives to gauge enterprises’ sentiments post the pandemic shock and follow-on recovery moves. The study and the webinar shone a light on how the pandemic compelled corporate leaders to acknowledge that some goals that had been taking years to accomplish could be completed in a few months. The webinar discussion reinforced that time is running out fast for businesses to plan for growth and build the capability while managing cost curves in the distress situation.

Enterprises woke up to COVID-19 and acted swiftly, but they cannot rest on their laurels.

Ensuring safety, business continuity, and sufficient cash flow was the key to enterprises’ survival at the pandemic’s onset. But as the situation evolved, a focus on what will help companies survive and succeed in the long term. The top strategies for companies surveyed in the study were to adapt products and services for customer value, protect the business from volatility, and digitize processes (Exhibit 1).   Michael Ruttledge of Citizens Bank noted that while customer and employee safety were the immediate focus, once that was achieved, increasing the pace of digital transformation became mission critical.  Digital transformation efforts to stay competitive, to compete with FinTechs for example, requires data-driven strategy and top notch talent.  Companies like Citizens which were already on the journey of digital adoption are better poised to make the shift.  Citizens’ next generation tech strategy was already in place, including the accelerated move to cloud and agile, which helped the bank stay on top of customer and employee needs.  If Citizens didn’t already have that muscle to flex, it would have been harder to pivot to service employee and customer experience in a remote environment.

Exhibit 1: Adapt, protect, and digitize to succeed in the long term

Sample: 400 executives across Global 2000 enterprises

Source: HFS Research in partnership with Infosys, 2020


“Our immediate focus was to ensure good customer experience, take care of customer safety and the safety of employees. Now we have further accelerated the execution of our Next Gen Transformation strategy with a focus on Cloud, APIs & Microservices,  App Rationalization, Resiliency and Talent transformation to pivot to a more digital future.”

Michael Ruttledge

CIO and Head of Technology Services, Citizens


Focus on the have-to-have: cost containment + investment in digital enablement are required in tandem

Our webinar participants noted that the recessionary environment will continue for some time due to the uncertain business climate. Hence, enterprises will be focused on cost containment, ostensibly through strategies including automation or consolidation of service providers. But at the same time, critical investments are required for survival and success. Ruttledge noted that reduction of operating costs has been an effort in tandem with investment in automation and data-led strategies.  Efforts including digitalizing customer experiences not only save on costs for the bank, they also make things easier for the customer and open up new potential revenue streams.

Bottom line, enterprises must have a laser focus on investment in the areas which are mission critical for business success and growth. Topping the ‘have-to-have’ investments is technologies that enable remote working, followed by cloud and COVID-19 specific services or products (see Exhibit 2).  The fourth and fifth must-have areas for investment relate to monetizing data and leveraging AI and analytics for business process.

Exhibit 2: The 5 mission critical “have-to-have” investment areas


“Moving ahead, we see twin imperatives for the companies, which are not disjointed. One is to focus on cost containment through simplification of the landscape, use of automation and consolidating the portfolio of services over the 12-18 months as the recessionary environment will continue for some time. The second one is around improving the experience with focus on digital, data and API economies over 12 to 24 months.”

Mohit Joshi

President and Head of BFSI, Healthcare and Lifesciences, Infosys


The Bottom Line: Clock is ticking. 2021 is the year to convert lip service to growth-oriented actions.

The COVID-19 black swan urged enterprise leaders to realize the burning need for a hyperconnected digital enterprise. During the initial phase, the business leaders focused on safety and ensuring cash flow. As we begin 2021, time for business leaders to accelerate their focus on digital, data and API economies to enhance both the employee experience and customer experience. This needs courage to make big moves and confront the fear of change. It is time to move beyond lessons from the initial response to the pandemic, and start focusing on the journey towards growth.

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